Folks, if you never made it to Feast in the past four years, now is your time. The restaurant announced last week that it will be closing for good in nine months once its lease is up and no Houstonian worth their petroleum-byproduct-enhanced-sunsets should let that sun set on Feast without visiting it at least once.
Reaction to the sad news was swift, with several chefs and food personalities weighing in shortly after the announcement.
"I have to say that this is quite possibly the worst news I have heard In a long time," Tweeted chef Chris Shepherd of Underbelly, Feast's neighbor just down Westheimer. "This city will be at a huge loss." The City of Houston's Visitors and Conventions Bureau offered its own condolences as well: "You've brought so much to Houston and the restaurant scene. I hope there are plans for another project in the future."
Asked regular commenter FattyFatBastard in the comments section of last week's post on the impending closure: "Can we use this as a way to let folks like me know what are the 'must try' things here? I'd love to try them out."
We live to serve, Fatty. So here are our top 5 picks for the must-try dishes at Feast.
Honorable Mention: Sticky Toffee Pudding
A staple of the genre, the sticky toffee pudding at Feast is rightly hailed as the best example of the classic English dessert in the city. Split it with a friend, because it's as dense and rich as the Brant brothers -- but so much sweeter.
5. Exmoor Toasts
These are the perfect starting point to any meal at Feast, for several reasons: For one, the little toasts -- crisped up in pork fat, to give them some added oomph -- are more like a bite-sized amuse bouche than an entire, heavy appetizer; this will be important later on, as the rest of Feast's dishes range in size from Hungry Man Plus to Ye Gods Is That An Entire Cow Head. Additionally, the interesting combination of ingredients -- salty and tender white anchovies atop a layer of clotted cream -- showcases the interesting and unusual ways in which Feast turns traditional British cuisine on its ear, without being too esoteric for most diners. And chances are that if you like the Exmoor toasts, you'll like the odder stuff on Feast's menu -- they're a great bellwether for new diners, and a trusty jumping-off point for regulars.
4. Fish and Scallop Pie
This dish -- the first I ever tried at Feast -- is enough to make even the most devout Jew reconsider the whole no-mixing-dairy-with-meat or no-eating-shellfish thing. The pie is only a pie in the loosest sense of the word, and is more like a casserole of tender fish and fat scallops topped with a leek-and-cheese-filled crust of mashed potatoes. And like the next dish on this list, the side dish -- perfectly roasted brussels sprouts -- may make you reconsider your childhood dislike of certain foodstuffs.
3. Calf's Liver with Bacon
You may think that you don't like liver. That may be because you grew up eating manky old cow livers or cafeteria-style mush covered in equally unattractive brown sludge. So do yourself a favor and let your tongue discover the truth of how truly wonderful a well-sautéed, finely seasoned piece of calf's liver truly is. Feast serves its liver oh-so-simply with sides of mashed potatoes and spinach, and coats the delicate calf's organ with a bright onion gravy that makes the whole thing hum.
2. Crispy Roasted Pork Belly
There are those who argue that no one else in town has a finer touch when it comes to that oft-overused and off-exploited underbelly of the pig. And I don't disagree with them. Feast treats its pork bellies with respect and consideration, not as a gimmick to be thrown carelessly atop a pile of nachos or scoop of foie gras ice cream. The soft potato cake resting underneath is a nice change from standard mashed potatoes, and the red cabbage with apples that serves as the bed of the entire dish slices cleanly through the starch and fat with each decadent bite.
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1. Beef Sweetbreads
Although I've always insisted that Feast serves so much more than just offal, it's ultimately a savory offal treat that's my personal favorite here. The beef sweetbreads -- No. 50 on last year's list of 100 Favorite Dishes -- are served in a mad jumble atop a mound of mashed rutabaga. A side of tangy Swiss chard is softened by the rich, meaty juices from the sweetbreads -- typically the thymus or pancreas of an animal -- and a few fresh mint leaves on top provide a sweet, bright note to the entire dish. It may sound like too much, but the sweetbreads themselves are pillowy and incredibly creamy without being too heavy. And the earthy sweetness of the more roughly textured rutabaga in place of, say, mashed potatoes, keeps the dish light, too.